Stephen Hasner | Wrongful death | April 13, 2023
Grief is a normal process. It allows your brain to come to terms with your loss cognitively and emotionally. In other words, even when your brain knows your loved one has died, you will still feel the emotional turmoil from not accepting it emotionally.
Everyone experiences grief differently. Dr. Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief over 50 years ago. But some people skip stages, get stuck on stages, or even experience additional stages. As you approach your grieving process, you should allow yourself to grieve naturally rather than imposing a framework on your emotions.
What Is Grief?
Grief encompasses many emotions and physical sensations. At its core, grief is an overwhelming emotional reaction to a significant loss.
You can grieve after:
- Facing a significant health problem
- Experiencing the death of someone close to you
- Losing your home or possessions, especially in a disaster
This reaction can produce emotional and physical symptoms such as:
- Sleep disorders
- Ruminating thoughts
Some people experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
The Stages of Grief
The grieving process helps you work through these emotions and thoughts. Ideally, the intensity of the emotions you experience will lessen. You may still feel sadness and a sense of loss, but the emotional and physical sensations that accompany them will not overwhelm you.
In 1969, Dr. Kubler-Ross identified the stages of grief that seem universal. These stages do not necessarily happen in sequence, and they do not necessarily take the same amount of time. You might feel anger for months or even years. But your depression might only last a few days.
The five stages of grief include:
Denial represents the shock you experience after a loss. With an unexpected death, the denial might feel stronger since you did not have time to prepare.
The death of an elderly relative after a long stay in hospice care might trigger profound sadness, but you might not experience shock.
However, when an otherwise healthy friend dies in a car accident, you might feel:
You might feel that someone made a mistake. You may even experience a classic symptom of denial, protesting, “No, it can’t be true.”
You will want to blame someone or something for your loss. Sometimes, you will have a specific target for your anger. If your loved one died from medical malpractice, you might blame the doctor or hospital.
In other situations, you might not have a target for your ire. Instead, you may blame God, the situation, or life itself. You might even blame yourself or the person who died.
Some psychologists theorize that anger is a reaction to denial. When you go into denial, you withdraw from the world. When you feel angry, you reconnect with it.
Bargaining is your brain’s way of trying to find a way to return to how things used to be. This process gives you hope and allows you to begin envisioning life without your loved one.
Rather than using it in a clinical sense to describe a brain chemical imbalance, depression here means a set of emotions and physical symptoms associated with severe sadness.
You may experience:
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of motivation
Since this type of depression comes from your situation rather than a chemical imbalance, it should go away after you process your emotions.
Acceptance comes when you resolve your overwhelming and contradictory emotions. You will still experience grief, particularly when something triggers a memory of your loved one. But you will function normally in your daily life.
Steps for Dealing with Grief
There is no “right” way to grieve. You will experience grief in your own way and in your own time. Your brain will manage your grief so that you can come to a healthy acceptance of your loved one’s death.
With that said, there are steps you can take to help yourself grieve, including these:
Give Yourself the Space to Grieve
Giving yourself space means that you sit with your emotions. You do not push them away, suppress them, or rush through them. Without the time and emotional space to grieve, you can get stuck in the grieving process. This can lead you down the path of self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.
Observe the Traditions and Customs Important to You
Traditions and customs surrounding funerals and burials can give you structure for your grief. They can also put you among family members and friends who can support you through your grieving process.
At the same time, you should not force yourself to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. You can compound your grief by adding resentment that will make your life more difficult.
Seek Help if You Need It
You have many potential sources for support. Friends and family members who have experienced the same loss can provide emotional support.
But sometimes you need support from people with more distance. Support groups can help you process your loss with people who have also grieved. And therapists can provide emotional counseling and psychological support.
Take Care of Yourself
Grief can cause you to lose your motivation for self-care.
While you grieve, you should try to:
- Eat healthy foods
- Drink enough water
You should also try to go to work and maintain your routine. But if you need time off to process your emotions, you should give yourself that space temporarily.
Look for Ways to Give Meaning to Your Loss
Not every loss has meaning, but sometimes you can find it.
Some examples include:
- Donating to charity in your loved one’s name
- Volunteering for causes important to your loved one
- Getting justice for your loved one from those who caused their death with a wrongful death claim
By giving your loss meaning, you can accept it and move beyond it.
Navigating the Grieving Process
The grieving process does not follow a straight line. It does not have predictable stages or a defined endpoint. But fortunately, it is a process, and with the emotional space and time to let it proceed, you will get through it.
Contact the Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers at Hasner Law, P.C. For Help
For more information, please contact the personal injury attorneys of Hasner Law P.C. at our nearest location to schedule a free consultation today. We serve in Fulton County, Chatham County, and its surrounding areas: